Chapter Thirty One ~ Planning

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"I need your help."

I raised a single eyebrow, knowing exactly what Shikamaru was going to ask me for.

"No."

"You didn't even hear me out!" Anger rose in Shikamaru's already fragile, broken voice. He had clearly spent the night crying.

By now, anyone of importance would have heard of Asuma's death. Tragedy? Yes. Loss of a good asset for the village? Yes. Anything I could get involved in? Probably. Did I want to get involved?

Nein.

At least, not at a time like this. When I had to focus on myself.

I sighed out loud. "Look, I've got my own genin to deal with, and I'm behind on my own training. I can't afford the time to sit down with you and come up with strategies to avenge your sensei's death. I have nothing to avenge," I reasoned out loud.

And on top of that, I'd spent the better part of the morning investigating Kento and the cause of his mysteriously uncharacteristic behavior as of late. The genin conveniently had the day off after such a long mission--not only did they actually need the recovery time, but I was also busy.

He scoffed. "You're so selfish, Cashile."

"Also flattered," I replied smoothly, not at all swayed by his harsh words. "The only reason you're here," I said, using my hands in a wide motion to gesture my apartment, "Is because you think I'm the only one who is capable of thinking through a strategy, seemingly flawless in comparison to your own," I pointed out, smirking.

"Aren't you intrigued by the Akatsuki, though? Fascinated by their abilities? One member took down Asuma, a jonin of the village. Wouldn't you want to figure out how to take down an opponent this powerful?" Shikamaru prompted, clearly doing his best to manipulate and sway me.

Amateur.

"You make some good points," I conceded, grabbing my coat. "We can talk on the way to the ANBU interrogation center."

He didn't question why we were headed there, simply nodding and stepping back so I could lock the door.

We walked at a casual pace to the ANBU interrogation center, and Shikamaru laid out strengths, weaknesses, characteristics; everything one would need to know in order to come up with a strategy to defeat the opponent.

"So, what you're telling me is that one guy is immortal and the other has unknown powers?" I clarified.

"Yep. And I've been strategizing ways to separate them and turn their powers against each other. Any thoughts?"

Of course. That's why he wanted me: no one else could keep up with his thought flow. I knew how that felt. And it helped, to have someone to bounce ideas off of that could actually keep up with your train of thought.

In fact, my mind could outpace his.

"Do you have a location in mind to set a trap before you even try to lure one out?" I asked.

"I have a place in mind..."

He laid out the bare beginnings of a plan to me and I digested it, nodding slowly. "I'll think about it," I acknowledged, laying a hand on the door handle to the Anbu Interrogation Center. "I'll get back to you when I can. Will you be leaving anytime soon?"

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